Childless by design: why don’t I have a maternal bone in my body?

I’m a younger child in a family of six kids. I’m all the things you’d expect from someone born last (-ish, I have a little bro. It’s complicated). I’m a bit of a show off on the quiet, I’m funny (haha!), cheeky, like my own way, a bit wild, a bit unreliable, a bit unpredictable. I’m fiercely loyal and passionate, and probably quite a handful.

cracked earth

Image courtesy of prozac1 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m also childless and completely, totally and utterly happy about it. Yes, I am.

Not once in my 49 years have I ever looked at a child, be it a tiny newborn or a cute toddler, and thought “Ahhh – I need that”. Do not get me wrong, I feel something when I look at a child, but it’s only the same love and concern that I have for any other being on this planet, old and young. Or irritation, if they’re being a dick. But I have never felt broody in my life – well not about another human, at least. Not once. Not even a twinge. I love people, and I totally love and adore my nephews and nieces to pieces. I just don’t love them in that way. Non-humans – the likes of dogs, chimps and baby elephants – however, make my organs twist and my heart bubble outwards in the most exquisite and painful way; which is, I presume, similar to that way.

And that's the only way I can get close to understanding what it must feel like.

Me and some of my siblings – I’m the scribbled on one (I almost definitely deserved it.)

I’ve thought long and hard about the possible reasons why I am the way I am. Is it hereditary? Learnt behaviour? Or just, maybe – simply – opportunity and circumstances. Something my mother never had. You see, my mum, despite having six children, was not maternal in the slightest. Not. In. The. Slightest. Six kids. SIX.

Amazing, huh? Not really; she was Irish Catholic so she had no choice but to keep shelling ’em out. So, because she lacked the selflessness that comes with the maternal urge, she wasn’t the best mum in the world (but neither was she the worst: in fact, it was only when I realised my true non-maternal self that I was able to see things from her point of view – and I forgave her, totally). It didn’t come naturally to put us first. Again, it’s not that she was unkind, it was more that she just didn’t enjoy us as much as she could have, and she resented the hard grind, the mind-numbing, back-breaking factory jobs she was forced to do to keep a roof over our ungrateful, lairy heads. I don’t blame her, if I’d been in her shoes none of us would have made it to teendom.

Since my mother wasn’t maternal I was co-mothered by my siblings, in particular my oldest sister. It is common for older children to bring up younger kids but this was more than that – she provided the maternal nurturing that I was missing (where she got her nurturing is another story). And it got me thinking: are women who were mothered by older siblings less likely to be mothers themselves? And are younger children less likely to become parents?

I’ve done a bit of research on this but can’t find much, beyond stuff that says younger kids are more likely to be more indulged, given more attention, and are therefore more likely to develop selfish traits (I was, and I did). Which is kinda common sense. So, it follows that women who are more selfish, and self-centred, will be less likely to have children, as this is – by its very nature – a pretty un-self-centred thing to do (of course people do choose to have children for extremely selfish reasons, but for the purposes of this discussion we’re not talking about those people). For me, it’s always looked like far too much hard work, being at another being’s beck and call, 24/7. No ta. I’m just not made that way.

And this is what I think: I am not childless by choice, I am childless by design.

Whether pre or post-natally I have no idea. I don’t know whether it was nature or nurture or both that made me how I am but I do know that I am not in denial, and I’m absolutely not resigned to having left it too late. I am entirely happy with how my life has panned out – child wise at least. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on grandkids, or feel like I’m not a complete woman because I haven’t reproduced (as I have been told a couple of times in my life).

Give me greyhounds any day of the week: smellier (they fart for England), more likely to pee in your shoes and leave you “presents” behind the telly – but less bother and, ultimately, not human. Good dogs.


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